Going To A Gay Porn Convention

Jul. 31, 2011
Briana Ritz is an alias used to protect the real Briana from her Google-searching, highly-religious extended ...

Ever since I started working in the porn industry four years ago, one of my secret desires has been to be mistaken as a porn star. I once heard someone at an industry convention say, as if it were an old adage, as if it were a piece of advice passed down to him from his grandfather, “You can always tell who’s behind the camera at these events.” The man pointed a tobacco-stained finger toward a throng of thong-wearing women and men with potbellies and probably dandruff. The women were smooth and sun-brown, their hair shiny and hitting just at the nipples. Their pert little butts clung around the floss of their thongs and long legs perched like Barbie feet in strappy heels. The men were convex creatures, bellies extended and full of complimentary forum food and drink. At least three men in the group were leaning heavily on a woman, staring fixedly at her boobs while she and the other girls chatted.

These kinds of men are never back at the conventions the next year. They probably entered the porn industry the day they realized they could commune with Lisa Ann and Bree Olsen and call it work, not realizing that porn is a business like any other and that porn workers have actual jobs to do. The repeat attendees have hardened (!) themselves to porn, no longer getting boners or vagina boners at the thought of boobs or penis, no longer bragging to their friends about what a crazy job they have and crazy life they lead, etc. It becomes less of a party trick and more of a thing you hope gets swept under the rug. I stopped saying, “I work in the gay porn industry!” after two years, choosing instead to blandly reply when asked my job: “I’m the Marketing Director for a film company.”

Last year while sitting poolside at The Phoenix Forum, a gay and straight porn industry convention, a man approached me. It was mid-morning, most porn stars were either screwing or being screwed and I was the only girl poolside. Now, since I have this wacky goal of being mistaken for a porn star, I try my hardest to “dress to the nines” at porn conventions. This usually means taking showers three times a week instead of my usual two.

“Hey cutie,” he said. His accent was dirty, somehow, Southern or just skeezy. “Anyone sitting here?”
He gestured to the pool chair next to me. I didn’t really want anyone to sit there other than my trusty bookbag full of complimentary lube, condoms and promotional thongs. However, I’d give anything to be taken as a porn star, so I smiled in an attempt to be flirty. “Nope.” Because that is my attempt at being flirty. Damn.

The man smelled like booze which would normally be acceptable, even expected, at a porn convention, but for the fact that it couldn’t have been past 10:30AM. He held a plastic cup full of lime green margarita and some slushed over the side as he gestured toward me. “You smoke?” he asked.

I don’t smoke. Smoking pot makes me feel hungry and tired, two things I already am all the time and don’t necessarily like feeling. “Sometimes,” I said. Again, I was at my Most Flirty here and one word, two syllable answers were making me feel uncomfortably brash.

“Wanna go up to my room and smoke some bud?” he said. Who the fuck seriously calls it BUD? I thought. Are we in a say-no-to-drugs video from the early-to-mid 90s? “Maybe later,” I said. “I’m just relaxing now.” There was a momentary pause. I could literally see his gears grinding to a halt, backpedaling, then switching to something else entirely.

“You know what I did last night?” he asked. His voice reminded me of men changing tires, of grease beneath fingernails, of deeply freckled Southern skin. “I spent $500 on a stripper.”

I tried to whistle in amazement but I am bad at whistling so I just spit a little.

“I spent $500 on a stripper,” he repeated.

“Wow,” I said. Raising my eyebrows. Nodding my head.

“Those damn strippers,” he said. “They’re so slutty. All they want is sex. They say they don’t, but they’re just askin’ for it, putting their stuff all in my face. Such whores.”

My years of studying gender equality and feminism and misogyny and sex workers and et cetera all bottled up in me. But repressing the desire to say something like, “Strippers are people too” felt nice and warm, like how if you press on a bruise long enough it can feel almost erotically good. I just pretended to be another ignorant bimbo. Womankind, yep, all we are is a bunch of slutty strippers and no means yes and yes means anal, ya dig?

For some reason, and maybe it is my years of being taught to end every sentence with “ma’am” or “sir” and being given awards for being, like, the politest girl scout, I couldn’t just stand up and bitch-slap the dude. I wanted to be liked. I had to be compliant. Maybe he was thinking I was another stripper. Maybe he found me desirable. Maybe he thought I was a porn star.

Later that day, my coworker Ben and I were walking around when we noticed a free massage booth. A pretty cute, somewhat beefy “stud” was doling out free ten-minute massages to…no one. For some reason, no one in the small, air-conditioned conference room had signed up to receive a free massage. Everyone skulked around like shy vultures. Like the kids in that one episode of Doug when Doug shows up a pool party and everyone’s self conscious and standing around Bebee Bluff’s pool in the summer sun, cartoon waves of heat sizzling off their blue and green and orange foreheads, ‘cause no one wants to get in the pool ‘cause they’re all self-conscious or whatever.

Maybe getting the first massage was some kind of social taboo, like being the first person to get in a line at a buffet, and since I am a firm believer in being the first person to get in line at a buffet I walked up to the beefcake and asked for a massage.

As I sat/lay on the massage chair/table, I heard a gruff voice ask Ben how he was doing. I figured it was another potential gay model scout, as lanky, high-cheekboned, tattooed Ben was getting asked to model for alternative porn roughly every half hour. Ben said he was doing well, thanks. The masseuse left my back and started rubbing this thumbs on my palms. I wondered about pressure points.

The next thing the gruff voice said was not “Good, glad to hear that you’re doing well” or “How are you liking the conference?” or even “Are you a model?”

“I drank so much last night,” he said. The voice was still drunk; his tongue thick and his words slurred.
“Ha ha,” Ben said, for lack of anything else to say.

The masseuse patted me on the back, a quick one-two meant to imply that my free ten minutes were up. I stood and before I could even un-straddle myself from the massage chair, Ben had positioned himself behind me, ready to take his turn and ready for me to talk to the drunk guy.

“You know how you get the drunkest?” the man asked. He was burly, maybe 6’2” and 260 pounds, with a gray-and-black beard that bordered on “unkempt.”

“You gotta start out the night with an empty stomach. Drink one, maybe two drinks, hard liquor. THEN. AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Then, you get yourself a nice sandwich. A fat sandwich. And you eat it all. At this point you can’t even feel any alcohol in you ‘cause you’re so full. Then you drink some more, maybe eight, nine shots. You’re startin’ to feel pretty good. So here, about 8-9 shots after the sandwich, you start chugging water. This is where you gotta start chugging. And then you eat somethin’ little. Like a small sandwich, maybe. So then you’re at the perfect level of drunk after that sandwich.”

I reached into the candy bowl in front of me, transfixed at this man’s obvious alcoholism. I ate an orange M&M and remembered how good M&Ms can be, even the plain ones. I reached for some more.

“Last night I was at this stripper party,” he said, apropos of nothing. “And I had this CUTE little blonde on my knee the whole time. She was bein’ such a naughty girl, and so I was tryin’a touch her things, you know, and she kept swatting me away like she was joking.”

“Maybe she wasn’t joking,” I said, almost absent-mindedly. A step up from my hapless submission to the man at the pool that morning.

“No, she was a real naughty girl.”

I saw then that this man didn’t care that I was a woman; he didn’t want to impress me or take me back to his hotel room. He didn’t think I was a porn star; didn’t want me to sit on his lap. He just wanted to brag to someone about his exploits and I happened to be there to listen. My womanhood or whatever felt sick and defeated. I felt like I needed a drink.

After our final night at Phoenix Forum, Ben and I decided to walk around downtown Tempe for a while. I was really craving some grape soda and he wanted a cigar but somehow we ended up in a head shop that smelled of patchouli and sold tie-dyed t-shirts and hemp products. The kid behind the counter saw our ID badges still dangling like dead fish, like limbs, like hypnotic pocket-watches from our necks. “You guys from the porn thing?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ben said.

“Dude, I would kill to go to that. Is it just like, naked girls all around?”

“Pretty much. There’s a pool and drink tokens and lots of porn stars. I mean, there’re gay dudes, too, so…”

“No worries, no, that’s cool. Wow. That’s cool. My friends and I’ve been trying to figure out how to sneak in there, actually,” he said.

“You can have our passes, if you want,” Ben said, looking at me for approval. I nodded and pulled the pass from around my neck, like I was revoking myself of a gold medal at the Olympics. The kid behind the counter looked, in two words, “really ecstatic.” He grabbed our passes and inspected them, gave them the old once-over as if to make sure they were real. I tried to imagine his excitement: we had literally given him passes to a party with free drinks, free-flowing drugs and the hottest sex symbols in America. Something we had taken so for granted; our time had been spent for the most part sitting in meetings with other business people, making deals for DVD distribution or exclusive model agreements. There had been occasional moments of libation and sin—like the jock strap modeling show during which the computer programmer I had a crush on showed up with his stripper girlfriend—but none of the balls-out, meth-head, pussy-packed enormity of revelry and hedonism I imagined the guy at the head shop imagined.

Maybe it would be different for him. Maybe he would show up and be swarmed with topless starlets. Drinks would be poured down his gullet and someone would sit on his face.

“Here guys, I feel bad just taking these from you,” the kid said, his eyes wide like dinner plates. A Disney character. “You smoke?” he asked.

The second time I’d been asked this question during the Forum but for some reason this time I didn’t hesitate.
“Sure,” I said and the kid pulled a dime bag from his pants pocket and pressed it into my palm like a magic seed that would grow into a beautiful oak tree, or some shit. “Thank you,” he said. Real earnest. “The pleasure’s all mine,” I said.

image – Noah Kalina
Briana Ritz

Briana Ritz

Briana Ritz is an alias used to protect the real Briana from her Google-searching, highly-religious extended …

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